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18th Jan 2017 12:00am | By Bija Knowles
Discover the dark side of Rome in the city’s eerie sites.
Verano Cemetery is a short walk east of Termini station.
The monuments and statues – many are renowned works of art – give Verano its reputation as one of Rome’s strangest open-air museums.
The more grandiose graves are guarded by marble statues of bereft mourners and winged angels, while other tombs bear more resemblance to large concrete filing cabinets where the deceased are stacked on top of each other.
It’s been a burial site since Roman times, but modern city dwellers have been coming here for some RIP since 1805. Some famous inhabitants include Italian filmmakers Roberto Rossellini, Marcello Mastroianni, and Luchino Visconti.
A leafy haven away from the noisy city, and is also the final resting place for British poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats.
One of Rome’s early Christian burial grounds, The Catacombs of St Sebastian (on via Appia Antica) are more than 1600 years old, with a network of tunnels and galleries stretching 11km.
The bodies are no longer in situ, but there are mosaics and mausoleums, as well as a damp musty smell to evoke the centuries of burial. See catacombe.roma.it for more information.
Round off your visit to the darker side of Rome with a peek at another subterranean site – the crypt of Santa Maria della Concezione on via Veneto.
It’s decorated with the bones of 4000 Capuchin monks, arranged in incongruous flower patterns.
If that’s not enough to freak you out, read the crypt’s inscription: “What you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be.”
Just a 25-minute train ride away from St Peter’s Basilica with more than 400 tombs. It makes for a city of the dead you can literally get lost in. Don’t go alone!
When to go: Spring and autumn tend to be warm without being stifling.
Getting there: There are flights to Rome daily from London. Or try the overnight train from Paris.
Getting around: A Rome Public transport ticket is available in 24 hour, 48 hour or 72 hour passes and cost €7, or €12.50 or €18 respectively.
Visas: South Africans need a Schengen visa.
Currency: Euro. 1 GBP = 1.15 EUR
Going out: A large beer costs €6.
Accommodation: A bed in a hostel dorm costs about €15. Basic hotel rooms start from about €20, or pay up to €60 for something that’s a bit nicer.
See: For listings and events in Rome see inromenow.com
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